Northbound

July 4, 2013 (Happy Fourth of July!)
Greetings tutti!
I hope this finds you well and enjoying a wonderful summer.
This update is breaking from my traditional “A.B.C.” mold so please bear with me!
For those who only have time for a brief summary:
I had to leave Italy this last week (because my “tourist visa” was about to expire) and am now in Ireland until the regional Christian Associates conference begins in Hungary at the end of July. I will likely spend August and September in Scotland where CA has an established faith community and another in the infant stages of forming. Lord willing, the first part of October I will return to Italy and will be there for another three months before returning to California to focus on obtaining a long-term visa. Scroll down to read what’s in bold for a few other key points.

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Here is the full scoop:
After almost three wonderful and fruitful months in Catania, Sicily I had to leave. As you may recall, I was not able to obtain a long-term visa for Italy before leaving California. Current Italian laws only allow tourists (everyone without a long-term visa) to travel within the Schengen zone (which is almost all of western Europe but NOT the UK and Ireland) for a total of 90 days out of every consecutive 180 days. After repeated attempts to extend my visa (applying for an extension to a tourist visa was allowed until sometime in the last 3-8 years) I diligently sought the Lord’s guidance and waited as patiently as I could for Him to show me what was next on the path He has marked out for me.
While my hands and heart, by God’s grace, have been open to wherever He would lead, on a practical level, it made the most sense for me to spend the next three months in or near Europe. There are two main reasons for this: First, Christian Associates’ (CA) annual regional conference for European staff and affiliates is in Hungary July 31- August 4. Attending the conference will be a huge help equipping me for ministering in Italy.
The conference alone will be a great time for learning and growth but another major motivation is to meet and network with CA staff from across the region. I have been working under Bethany and Steve Labue while in Catania these last three months. Bethany has been with CA for 10 years and is well connected with the CA community. The Labues however, will be leaving Catania in Feb./March of 2014 when Steve’s military deployment to Sigonella Naval Airstation near Catania will be completed and they will return to the States. Getting myself directly connected with other CA staff and leaders working in Europe at the conference will be a very helpful resource for me, especially after the Labues depart.
The second reason is by staying in the area and returning to Sicily as soon as immigration laws allow, I will be able to spend another three months working under the leadership of the Labues before they leave. Should I return home now or after the CA conference to start again on applying for a long-term visa, I probably wouldn’t be approved until after the Labues leave Catania. Steve and Bethany have been living in Catania for over three years and have an extensive and ever-growing network of friends. Their guidance, counsel, and example of what it means to live a missional life has been an incredible example and blessing to me.

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These last three months were spent working on learning the culture and language and finding my place within the faith community and the local neighborhood at large. I have been largely successful at these goals due to God’s grace bestowed through the help and oversight of the Labues. If I am to help carry on the light they have been within their neighborhood and network of friends, then spending three more months this fall with them will be a better use of my time now than returning home to work on visa issues. These are the two main reasons why I am writing to you from Ireland.

Ireland?! Yes, you read that right!

I am staying until the CA conference, at a “House of Prayer” B&B in the southwest corner of Ireland. I am taking this time to pray for all the wonderful people I met over the last three months; for you, my friends and family in the States; and for what the Lord has in store for me and for Italy in the coming months and years ahead.
I am really blown away by the love and grace of God to bring me to this place! I know He has things He has and already is teaching me here and that He is getting me ready for whatever lies ahead. Please pray I will lay hold of all He is trying to teach and show me during this time away.
From here I will head to the CA conference in Hungary at the end of this month. Lord willing, after the conference, I will be spending August and September working with CA staff and affiliates in Scotland and/or Ireland. I will be eligible to return to Italy the second week of October and hope to pick up where I left off and be there through or until Christmastime.
Following where the Lord leads is always an adventure (and sometimes feels a lot like a never-ending day at an amusement park!). Each ride and experience of mine testifies to just how faithful the Lord is to those who put their hope in Him! All I can do is thank Him for His mercy and grace and grab His hand with joyful anticipation each time He beckons me to join Him on a new ride.
Thank you all for your faithful love and support. None of this would be possible without your prayers, friendship, financial support, encouragement and counsel. Thanks for bearing with this long update and for sticking with me through it all! I will write again soon so you can rejoice with me at the great things the Lord is doing in Catania, Sicily and throughout Italy.
Please don’t hesitate to write if you have any questions or prayer requests and continue to pray for me and for Italy during these next few months too! I am confident the things I will experience in the coming months will equip me to serve all the better back in Sicily. Much like the green-mindedness of many of my fellow Californians, the Lord doesn’t like to waste a thing. He is the ultimate recycler! I hope this encourages you as well as myself: whatever trial or difficult season you may find yourself going through, the Lord can and will redeem it to accomplish His good purposes.
*If you are led to give financial support, checks can be made out and sent to Hessel Church, just be sure to include a separate note with my name on it (5060 Hessel Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472). Financial support can also be given online through PayPal on the Hessel website (http://www.horizon.hessel.org/give/).

**Donations to my Christian Associates (CA) account can also be made online. From CA’s homepage (http://christianassociates.org/), click the “Donate” button in the upper right-hand corner. Under ”Missionaries and Projects” click on “Missionaries” and then select “Cummings, Hillary – 40383”

With all my love and many thanks and prayers,
Hillary
   
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